In a few weeks, UConn will be retiring its second men’s basketball number, the No. 32 jersey belonging to Richard “Rip” Hamilton.
The ceremony will take place at Gampel Pavilion on February 24th before the Huskies’ game against Villanova. Hamilton will join Ray Allen (No.34) as the only other player with this honor. Both left behind an immense legacy at UConn and the NBA.
Rip was a crucial part of UConn’s 1999 championship team. He was an All-American and Big East Player of the Year two years in a row and led many breakthroughs for the program during his career. He also won an NBA championship with the Detroit Pistons.
After one of the most decorated careers in program history, UConn Men's Basketball will be retiring the No. 32 for the legendary Richard "Rip" Hamilton.— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) January 30, 2024
Despite only playing 3 seasons in Storrs, Rip is the second leading scorer in UConn history, a two-time All-American, two-time… pic.twitter.com/uypDS2VZf8
The Legacy of Rip Hamilton
Rip played three years at UConn, from 1996-1999, and in his first season, he showed flashes of his true potential. While the Huskies did not make it to March Madness and were not ranked at any point throughout the season in 1996, Hamilton had 15.9 PPG on .386/.392/.784 shooting splits, with 4.3 RPG and 2.8 APG. The one thing he desperately needed to work on was turnovers and efficiency (with 3.0 turnovers per game), and in his second two seasons, once he fixed those issues, UConn was back on the map.
In the 1997 season, UConn finished the regular season ranked sixth in the AP Poll and made it to the Elite Eight for a matchup with the star-studded UNC Tar Heels on the back of a sweet-sixteen buzzer beater by Rip.
At the time, UNC had Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, and Shammond Williams. UConn kept pace most of the game, going down 36-32 in the first half, but ended up losing 75-64 on the back of 20 points from Jamison. Rip had a tough game as well, going 5-21 from the field (including 0-7 from 2-point range), however, on the season he averaged an increased 21.5 PPG on .440/.404/.843 efficiency with 2.2 turnovers per game. This loss would likely be the driving factor in his 1998 success, as well as the team’s successes that year as well.
While the scoring remained the same for Rip in 1998 (21.5 PPG), his efficiency took a further jump, going .443/.496/.833. Shooting nearly 50% from three-point range is a rarity as is, doing it in the 1990s on 5.8 3-point attempts per game is astounding. UConn ended the season ranked No.3, and faced UTSA, New Mexico, Iowa, and Gonzaga in the beginning rounds. They would then face their hardest test to that point in the final four, going up against No.4 Ohio State University and future NBA All-Star Michael Redd. This game was 36-35 at the half but ended in a 64-58 Husky win.
The National Championship game would be a difficult one, as UConn would have to take on No.1 ranked Duke, who at the time had future NBA legend Elton Brand, and four other future NBA players in Shane Battier, Corey Maggette, William Avery, and Trajan Langdon. Rip took the game into his own hands though, scoring 27 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals shooting 10/22 from the field, 2/4 from three, and 5/6 from the line. Despite having his three-point shot limited, he was able to play an exceptional game from short range and drove the Huskies to a 77-74 win despite a 15-point and 13-rebound double-double from Elton Brand.
Rip would go on to be picked 7th overall in the 1999 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards. After three seasons there, he would go on to play with the Detroit Pistons for an additional nine seasons, winning the 2004 NBA Championship with Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace.
He would go on to have three All-Star appearances, a FIBA Americas Championship in 1999, and was recently inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022. He ended his NBA career with 15,708 points (17.1 per game), 2,852 rebounds (3.2 per game), and 3,125 assists (3.4 per game), with .449/.346/.852 career shooting splits.